To WordPress or Not To WordPress?
I've been thinking lately about people who start using WordPress or come to us to order a WordPress site for the first time. They usually have some expectations and ideas about it, not always real ones. People often assume that a WordPress site is a static 'thing', which is not true. WordPress site is "living" and getting it is not like buying a piece of furniture, but more like keeping a dog. There is a lot of fun, joy and new possibilities but there are duties and 'chores', too. Let's explore what it means to have a WordPress site with its pros and cons.
WordPress is a content management system (CMS) which means that it allows its users (administrators) to add content to the website using an application-like interface. You don't need to know anything about programming and yet you can add blog news, publish subpages, and upload galleries of photos and videos. There is no need to hire a web developer for each change. You can do those changes on your own.
The whole WordPress site management system is SEO friendly which is very important for everybody who cares about their page going up in Google rankings. Some of the plugins, like popular SEO by Yoast, allow you to optimize and customize your site from the SEO perspective. They are plugins for pop-up messages, or image size reduction. You can also use social media add-ons that will allow visitors to share your content on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.
What is more, WordPress is free - you do not pay any subscription or any other fee whatsoever. It is being developed as an OpenSource product with a large community of programmers working on its evolution and progress. It has got a lot of plugins or add-ons that extend its basic functionality. Some of the plugins are free, some you need to pay for. There are hundreds of those plugins.
WordPress started as a blogging environment but evolved greatly over time. It can be used for various purposes like promoting businesses, selling products, marketing restaurants with online orders, or showing portfolios on the web. Just look at the range of the examples below:
- Microsoft News Center
- The New Yorker
- BBC America
- MTV News
- PlayStation Blog
- The Walt Disney
- Facebook NewsRoom
If you decide to get a WordPress site, you will be among the elite ;)
WordPress' got very popular and by some sources, it covers about 1/3 of the Internet. Can you imagine that? Every third website out there uses WordPress! Of the websites that have a content management system, WordPress has got about 60% of the market. The second one is Joomla which holds only 6.5%. That fact is significant because it creates a snowball effect. Becoming more popular, WordPress is drawing more people with better skills to use it and work on it. More plugins (add-ons, extending basic WordPress functionality) are getting created, giving new possibilities to WordPress users.
These are the pros. If you knew them already, that is very good. Coming back to the 'keeping a dog' metaphor, we are at the moment of thinking about how nice it is to have a pet. Going for long walks in summer sunsets, forest trips, having somebody to cuddle and to play with, and protect your home. Lovely, isn't it? Then well… apart from 'the lovely', we also know dogs need to poop. Have we considered the fact that we'll need to go out with them every morning and evening? But having the experience is different from considering it.
Here comes the responsibility
I remember the summer I spent in the French Alps at my friend's mountain house. I had a jeep and I would go to the woods to cut some trees to prepare an area for a new road. One morning I got out of the house with a cup of coffee listening to the stream beneath the garden and started to fantasize about staying in the Alps for good. I got into a fantasy that I would get a black labrador, with whom I’d ride in the jeep and live as a hermit. Do you remember the film called "Into the Wild"? That kind of thing. A few days later my mother called and said that she got a black lab. I was very happy because my dreams were partially coming true and I got personal proof that telepathy works ;)
Well, I never went to the Alps with my black lab Lisa, but had about a few hundred of 5/6 am wake-ups and walking her in different weather conditions, sometimes cursing the cosmos for the moment I wished for a black labrador! Having a dog IS great. What I'm saying is there are some things you won't know until you experience them. So, what is it with WordPress that you should know before you decide to get it?
WordPress site is "alive" in many ways
You do not just pay for building a site. The system is getting updates every so often and those updates add new functionalities, cover security loopholes and improve the whole organism. You are not compelled to update, but you should. Otherwise, your site might be getting vulnerable to malicious attacks, or get outdated. It's not just the WordPress that is being updated, the plugins get their updates as well. So, every now and then you should update your WordPress core installation and the plugins you use.
If your website was highly customized and a programmer developed a very specific functionality for you, it may turn out that some of the updates make those things stop working. If this happens you need to ask a developer to adjust those functionalities to the new version of WP or a plugin. It doesn't happen very often, but from time to time, depending on the scale of the website, you will need to do some conservation. That means you need to have a budget to cover it.
There is no other way, to be honest. We’re aware of cases when sometimes people come with an old and outdated WordPress installation asking us for various improvements like, for example to add some new plugin that offers a crucial functionality that appeared on the market and is used by their competitors. Getting that kind of site off the ground is usually very expensive and we suggest them to develop a new website altogether. It is really cheaper to spend some money every now and then to maintain your WordPress Site rather than let it grow old until it's too late.
WordPress site Backup and Security
Budget-wise, you need to invest in security and backups as well. I don't want to cover that topic here, but you can go to other articles to learn more about it:
Backup is as important as going to war with a rear guard, security is as important as educating your teenager about safe sex. Ignoring both is stupid and can cost you money, tears, and stress.
Websites have life cycles. If they are badly built, they have got only one life cycle. This means its design or/and functionality get outdated and need to be changed after let's say… five years. So if you go to a not-so-good, but cheap developer you will possibly get that thing. If it's just for five years, it's fine. But your site might live longer and have more than one life cycle. That is achievable if your website is designed and programmed using modular techniques.
Designers and developers build sites as if they were using a set of Legos. You can take out one piece and put it in another place, or throw it out altogether. If a WordPress site is modular, redesigning and adding new functionality will be possible. In a few years after website's original launch, you might want to pay a designer to redesign it, and your developer will apply those changes to an already existing site. Adding or removing elements will be like rearranging Lego bricks. You might also get new bricks, and get rid of the things you don't need or change the way they look.
That will be it. Before going into WordPress consider if you really need a content management system? If so, WordPress is probably your best choice. Consider also how you approach the creative process, how many years your site needs to be out there, and who will you work with on keeping it in good shape. Finally, plan some maintenance budget after your site goes live. If you do all that it may turn out that your WordPress site… is your best friend.